Bluffton: Census Bureau underestimating our population

July 15, 2009 

  • • U.S. Census Bureau population estimates for the town of Bluffton: 2007 -- 4,091 2008 -- 4,312 • Bluffton officials estimate the town has 14,155 residents.

Bluffton officials say the U.S. Census Bureau significantly underestimated the town's population in figures it released earlier this month.

The town estimates its current population to be 14,155.

The Census Bureau estimate was 4,312 at the end of 2008. Town officials say that's because it didn't include all households in areas annexed over the past five years.

Now it's up to Bluffton Town Council to decide whether to appeal the Census Bureau's estimate and potentially capture more population-based state funding.

It is unclear how long the appeals process would take or whether the town would receive funding based on the new estimates. Brie Giroux, Bluffton's revenue and programs administrator, said town officials have not talked with the Census Bureau about the discrepancy or a possible appeal. Planning and finance department officials had said Bluffton is entitled to about $35 per resident per year in state revenue.

This is not the first time the Census Bureau and the town have had differing population figures.

Bluffton, which has been growing rapidly through annexations since the 2000 census, paid for a special census in 2005, in which the Census Bureau counted 4,885 residents. That is the figure currently used to calculate per capita funding for the town, but it does not include more than 1,600 residents brought into the town that same year when Buck Island and Simmonsville roads were annexed, according to town data. The town has continued to grow rapidly through annexation and development over the past five years.

The town and Census Bureau used different methods to update their population figures.

The town tallies new requests for trash service per household on a quarterly basis, saidGiroux. The number of households is multiplied by 2.85 people per household to get the estimated population figure, she said.

The Census Bureau, using data from the 2000 census, adds population based on the number of building permits issued in town, Giroux said. Annexed areas that have existing housing and residents are not taken into consideration, she said.

The town has undergone a program to update addresses in preparation for the 2010 U.S. Census.

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